Title: of skrulls, four freedom plaza, and ben grimm
Characters: Regina Mills, Henry Mills
Disclaimer: Do not own anything. I don't own Marvel or Disney or OUAT.
Summary: Sometimes, she wishes the curse had taken her to this universe. She would have found herself Skrulls to shift into people she has lost.
Note: Based on the interview Horowitz and Kitsis had with Marvel. More specifically this quote: "We thought it would be fun to have her hold a FANTASTIC FOUR and in our mind we like to think it wasn't her buying it for Henry but for herself"and this quote: "the evil queen has a thing for The Thing."
The curse shuffles her memories.
The past whips around her head like the clouds rushing in a swirl around and around and around the kingdom.
When she surfaces up in the new world, finding herself buried under blankets, her past feels like a dream, a muted echo at the edge of consciousness.
Daniel's face is the brightest, though, and so she seizes hold of that, the memory of him and his smile and the dead weight of his body. She pries the truth apart, starting with Daniel, and everything follows after in a diving rush: her mother, her father, Snow White.
Fact (old): Regina is a queen.
Cotton sheets pool in her lap as she scrambles to a sitting position. Blinking, she drinks in unfamiliar walls and square windows. Outside, the tip of a pole shines bright as a torch though the light doesn't flicker or waver as she would normally expect.
The phrase comes a second after (after she wonders what curse conjured such a torch). Street lamp, she thinks, or lamp post.
She runs through a new vocabulary like a prayer: the United States, Storybrooke, television, automobile, airplanes.
She presses a hand to her heart, feels the steady tap beneath warm fingers and wonders if this new rhythm is hers to keep as well.
Fact (new): Regina Mills is a mayor.
After a month, the divide solidifies, providing a border as clear cut as the divide between their town and the rest of this world. Her life splits into three parts: before Daniel died, after Daniel died, and then, this, which has no name, yet.
After a couple of months, she remembers to buy groceries on Sundays, learns to use the stove and oven to cook herself meals, and drives her car without incident (she crashes it that first time on the first day; Sheriff Graham saves her with an affable grin and a well-mannered "need a ride to work, Mayor Mills?").
She meets him on a Sunday, though meet isn't the proper word.
She pushes her grocery cart down the wrong aisle and finds herself in the middle of magazines, paperback books, and school supplies. A boy in a wrinkled t-shirt and rubber sandals — a villager's son, she guesses, because she has no recollection of his true identity — jumps up and down, arms flailing towards the top section of a rack. His fingers brush against the tips of the booklets, but mostly grasp air.
"Sorry, Mayor Mills," he startles when he almost topples into her.
The Queen hovers, there at the surface, waiting to come up and snap, but Regina Mills is a mayor and these are her people, now.
"Watch where you're going next time, young man," she tells him, instead, in a firm tone that lacks the hard edge of the Queen's old snarl.
He nods, sincerely, "Yes ma'am."
At that, she readies to swivel her cart around, and gets halfway there when he tugs at the cuff of her blazer and smiles, shyly.
"Could you help get me that comic book?"
His cheeks flush soft red when he mistakes the confusion that flickers across her face with refusal. "It's okay," he mumbles around a pout, and prepares to jump again.
"No, here you go." Her hands stretch over his head to snap up a thick stack of issues, worrying her bottom lip as she tries to remember the last time a child had smiled at her with warmth (she boxes up the memory of horses, an open field, and racing for a girl, and thinks: lie, not fact).
"It was my birthday, the other day," he tells her solemnly as he thumbs through the pile of comics she presents him, "and now I get to pick what to buy with my money." He brightens at a comic with a green creature on the front wearing torn shorts and a menacing scowl. He curls the booklet into a cylinder, and stuffs it in his back pocket where it juts out at an angle.
She wonders if this fact is old or new. "Happy Birthday."
"I gotta go, I think." He frowns at the bright blue watch on his wrist, tapping two fingers repeatedly on its face before shrugging.
"Thanks, Mayor Mills!" He adds as an afterthought over his shoulder, which he punctuates with a half-wave and a grin.
When she looks down at comic books clutched in her hand, she is introduced to him — Benjamin Grimm. The title across the masthead pops out, its block print inked in a red orange hue: The Fantastic Four. She returns the rest of the stack, but flips through this one, eyes narrowed as they rake down pages of a different form of storytelling, one that did not exist in the life before this,one that relies heavy on drawings and dialogue.
Fact (old): Heroes are kings, queens, princes, and princesses of royal bloodlines.
She stops at a panel, mouth creasing into a frown that dips only slightly.
In the middle of an argument, Ben Grimm morphs from human to monster, angry and spiteful and bitter (Wielding a tree, he screams "how can you care for that weakling when I'm here?").
The next breath she takes stutters up her throat.
Fact (new): Heroes can be monsters, too.
Comic books become a hobby.
She dabbles into other stories, about mutants, about super-soldiers, about reluctant heroes, but Ben Grimm is the unwavering constant.
She enjoys his humor, his hesitation to fully accept the Thing, his painful desire to be human, to fit properly in his world. She enjoys his anger that gets the best of him, occasionally, but also his big heart. She prefers him to Reed Richards, who is privileged and given mostly everything, who thinks enough of himself to take on the moniker, Mister Fantastic.
The stories remind her of magic, the only part of home that can evoke a smile, and she thinks the Queen would thrive in this sometimes ruthless world of aliens and alternate dimensions, of lost loves that are always, always found again.
(Sometimes, she wishes the curse had taken her to this universe. She would have found herself Skrulls to shift into people she has lost.)
After a decade, she has boxes full of issues, none in mint condition because she reads them twice the first time around, and then again later, on days when work is not enough to fill up the barren hallways of her mansion.
They line the attic in perfect stacks. A box for each superhero team: Fantastic Four, X-men, Excalibur, X-Force, The Avengers. There is a box for specials when teams come together.
"Did you like the last issue?"
"It was acceptable."
It wasn't (she loathes retcons; the past should not be undone so easily), but she wants to avoid a lengthy discussion on the need for new beginnings and the difficulty of such a task.
Fact (old): Time ticks down by seconds, which make up minutes, hours, days.
"I thought it was terrible," he slides beside her in front of the rack.
She considers returning later instead of browsing now, but he looks up and smiles that same shy, warm smile on an eight year old face that has not changed.
"It wasn't his best issue." She allows with a tight smile.
It took two years to notice the static fuzz that held the town still. Two years to notice that the boy never aged. Two years to notice how they drifted above time, the town and all its inhabitants, brushing right against its surface but never fully immersed, like the frozen layer of a lake in the middle of winter, floating on top of rushing water and life that continued on without it below.
"Think you can grab that one for me?" He points to an issue of Wolverine, stretching up to show that his fingers can still only brush air.
Something so close to regret ricochets up her spine, settles heavy in her chest.
Fact (new): Time does not move, and yet it does.
When she snaps at Gold to find her an infant, a son in an orphanage outside of Storybrooke (her only two stipulations), the consequence of such a decision is an afterthought.
She thinks mostly of the time she can no longer track. Time that is fuzzy and estimated rather than precise. She thinks of the empty house and a flourishing void inside her, whispering in the dead of night about solitude and stasis.
(Some moments, she wonders if she ate the apple, if this town, if this life is nothing more than static dreams).
She wants a boy with a warm smile, who grows and moves with proper time, whose limbs will stretch to full potential, whose voice will change into a rich baritone.
In preparation, she decorates the empty room at the top of the stairs with striped blue wallpaper and Fantastic Four posters. She dreams of years counted by candles on a birthday cake that she will bake herself.
Fact (old): Regina dreamt of children with Daniel.
She plans to name him after her father because Storybrooke beats with his heart. Its walls are coated in his blood and held up by his bones.
When Gold calls – "his birth mother wants a closed adoption, you can have him by the end of the week" – she feels full and whole and alive for the first time since waking up as Regina Mills.
Fact (new): Regina Mills is a mother.
She forgets about the divisions in her life before Henry. There is only before Henry and after Henry, now.
There are seven years of After Henry that passes in a blur of birthday cakes, bedtime stories, and arguments over which superhero is the best.
Henry loves Cable.
Regina still loves Ben Grimm.
(She forgets, too, of life before Henry. She misplaces those memories when her head begins to fill, instead, with fears and anxieties over her son and his well-being.)
"Can we get a puppy?" he asks, curled beside her on the couch.
"Can we get a dog?" he yawns.
On the television, Ben transforms back into the Thing and snarls out his famous line: "it's clobberin' time." Beside her, Henry lets out a small whoop and ducks his head into her side to muffle an excited laugh. She can feel the upward curve of his mouth and the rumble of his chest as air rushes in and out.
"Henry," she says when the action comes to a brief pause, "those words mean the same thing."
"A puppy is a baby dog and a dog is a grown up dog."
"Is that right?"
"Yes ma'am." Using her shirt as a tissue, he rubs his nose against her side.
"Or," he adds brightly, "can we make a tree house?"
"What will you do with a tree house?"
He waits for the Fantastic Four to triumph over Doctor Doom before howling, "I want my own Four Freedom Plaza!"
"Maybe." She laughs, and presses a kiss on top of his head, which smells of cake batter and popcorn and L'Oreal Kids 'Blueberry Smoothie'.
Regina pours all that is left of her into this boy, who is everything and more than the faceless infant she had dreamt up in her head.
Fact (neither old nor new): Regina never wins.
Fact (neither old nor new): Magic does not forget; it demands a price for its work.